Are 3D Movies Bad for Your Eyes?

It’s a Friday afternoon and the kids cook up a smart plan to go to the movies with you, and they want to see that brand new 3D movie that everybody in their school is raving about. It’s at this point that you must break their little hearts because you can’t watch a 3D movie with them, why? Because you wear glasses and you were told by your elders before you, those red and blue (or even the modern black type) glasses will make your eyesight even worse than it is.

Is all this true? Let’s put some myths to rest and bring back the joy of 3D movies, whether you wear contact lenses or glasses or no eyewear at all.

How Does 3D Work?

It starts with your eyes- each eye provides a specific view of the world we see every day. If you cover one eye and hold out an object in front of you, you may find the object is “jumping” around. This is because there is now an offset in the image your eye is seeing and the image your brain is creating. Your brain is basically trying to measure out the distance of that image in front of you by something called “triangulation”.

This is where scientists have decided to use the power of the mind and its ability to measure distances between your visual cortex and the images they see, creating the world of 3D. It’s more of a mental manipulation than a visual transformation.

What Do the Terribly Fashioned Blue and Red Glasses Do?

If you look at a 3D image with your naked eyes (no glasses) you’ll notice the picture has 2 layers, one is red and one that is blue, but it is never perfectly aligned with the red part, it’s always off centred. This is on purpose. Now when you put the glasses on there’s no distinction between red and blue, everything looks clean, blur-free. What’s happening is all inside your brain- it has merged the 2 images to create the perception of depth and that’s where the magic of 3D comes in.

Some people have complained about feeling nauseous whilst watching a 3D movie or developing headaches and this is true for a badly made 3D movie. Filmmakers have to be sensitive about the human senses whilst creating this effect, for example, you could be watching a scene of a character floating in space where there’s zero gravity and with 3D you feel like you’re the one floating in space, so one part of your body is experiencing that, whilst in reality, you’re well-planted onto your favourite couch at home or in that premium cinema seat, so there’s the other half of your brain communicating something else, hence your discomfort.

The function of having 2 eyes is for both (even though they see images differently) to work in unison, creating 1 final image. When we watch something in 3D our eyes are being made to work on their own, and this conflict causes plenty of side effects on the human body, including the eyes.

Can I Wear Contact Lenses/ Glasses With My 3D Glasses?

In short, the answer is yes, however, if you try to fit a pair of 3D glasses on top of your normal spectacles, you’ll soon find out why some people get frustrated. They simply don’t fit and are not comfortable at all. There is an answer for this however, you can get yourself a pair of prescription 3D glasses. Yes, they can come in prescription versions. If you’re a contact lens wearer, make sure to get those tested by your optometrist and approved for wearing whilst those movie glasses are on at the same time.

Is There a Solution?

For you to thoroughly enjoy the effects and hard work that’s put into a 3D movie, you will need to have good binocular vision- both your eyes will need to work in perfect coordination with each other. The sad reality is if your coordination is slightly off then that’s when you’ll experience those side effects whilst the kids and some of your friends seem to be having a blast with no issues at all.

Did you know? Some people simply cannot watch 3D at all because they are “stereo blind”. Their brains cannot triangulate between their eyes, so 3D is not even on the bribery list on movie night.

In the end, it seems our mothers and grandmothers were right after all (in most cases at least), but don’t let them know now, you’ll get the old “I told you so” and might spoil movie night.

The easiest way to solve this is to take a 20-second break every 20 minutes, stretch yourself, take a few breaths of air in and whilst you’re doing this focus on an image that’s about 20 feet away (not an on-screen image!). This should lessen your chances of headaches, nausea, and red eyes. You can also try our Viteyes Digital Blue, which helps protect your eyes against damaging blue light from screens.

As I always say, where there’s a problem, there’s always a solution.